Dethroning the “god” of Productivity

 

“Remember that productivity is not your god.”

Sigh.

This past weekend, I read the words of this insightful blog post on Chatting at the Sky, and it hit me square between the eyes.

Productivity is not my god…

PUSHING PAST MY LIMITS

I was wrestling with very similar issues to this blog’s writer: failing to stop and rest in even the simplest tasks (I’ve always thought that if I keep at this pace, my bladder and stomach will one day go on strike due to unfair working conditions), delaying the start of my afternoon prayer time to finish just “one more thing,” staying up a wee bit later, trying a little bit harder, giving a little more focus, making just one more Web search to find the answer I was looking for…

All in an effort to reach that often elusive…

but oh so, soul-quenching…

that deeply, personal and satisfying goal of…

completion.

When I’d give the task at hand this kind of energy and attention at the expense of everything else, you’d swear it was the most important thing on the planet. I mean, when I got into this “driven” mode, I would put my work ahead of my well-being.

Sometimes, ahead of relationships.
(Um, ever snap at someone who interrupted something “important” you were doing? Yeah, me too. =( )

And maybe even, at times ahead of… God?

Sigh.

All this so I could call some tiresome goal (that likely wasn’t as important as I was making it) complete.

And complete it…

all

by…

myself.

WHERE THE REAL WORK HAPPENS

“…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…” –Joshua 24:15

At first I thought I was just your desirably ambitious, a positively driven gal with a strong “work ethic” and a high bar of “excellence” that would lead to results for the good of all. Maybe at worse, “type A” or whatever. But this little blog post I read brought forth a new perspective that resonated with me.

Was I not after all chasing the god of productivity?

But in an attempt to be useful, to work with “excellence” (whatever that really means), and do my best, was I not actually trying to prove myself?

…to accomplish something by my own hand?

Was I not selling out my own soul?

Not really trusting the God of the work, the One Who is my Good Shepherd and makes me rest?

And good thing He makes me… otherwise, I might never if left to my own way.

(Ha! How lame is that?)

I can’t help but recall a familiar passage that has been my guidepost during a season or two of burnout and my favorite prescription for prevention:

“Unless the Lord builds the house; they labor in vain who build it;
unless the Lord guards the city; the watchman keeps awake in vain.

“It is vain for you to rise up early,
to retire late,
to eat the bread of painful labors;
for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”

Psalm 127:1-2

Look at all those great parallels – they certainly get the point across! In short, our contributions are not as vital as we like to think we are. Our attempts to work to the edges of our limits are completely foolish. Why? Well, it’s God who causes our efforts to blossom. Even without our lifting a finger, He’s able to produce lasting fruit that brings Him glory well beyond what we could dare hope to achieve even on our very best day.

TRUST. WORK. REST. REPEAT.

So, friends, what shall we say in light of His grace? God’s got it covered, so no need to work? Well, not quite. He has made us to join His purposes through our work, but we must remember – it’s His work. We don’t have to do all of the heavy lifting ourselves; in fact, we can’t. God is there to carry our burdens for us, to use His great strength to benefit us and provide for us.

Jesus loves it when we come to Him with the little we have in our hands because it delights Him to multiply it. It’s yet another opportunity grow in our trust in and dependency on Him. When we reach our limits, our limitless God continues onward for us in His amazingly good plans, in His abundant love that’s deeper than we can fathom, in His incredible mercy and justice that reaches no end.

Mmm… It always seems easier to find the answer when we look to God and Who He is. =)

So what about those times when I want to push past lunch (consistently) to get the job done?

I stop. I eat. And I exercise my faith by trusting God to help me finish afterwards.

Or when I’m convinced keeping my 29 tabs of search results open will help me find my solution?

I close the window, ignore my browser’s panicky warnings (“You’re about to close XX tabs… Are you sure?”), and let God help me find what I need later.

What about when I’m afraid that I’ll lose my creative flow, wreck my deadline, kill my momentum?!

I trust God to help me pick it back up again, and I move on.

And when the day’s nearly through and I still haven’t finished that one thing, made those phone calls, completed that sentence that I’m in the middle of?

Reckoning with my inability to do it all, I ask God to take care of it… take care of them… take care of me and call it a day.

SAY “GOODBYE,” PRODUCTIVITY!

It’s taken me a long time to stare this one down, to let it sink in, for this approach to work/rest to become part of my natural rhythm, but God is faithfully changing me. I still wrestle with my tendency to chase after productivity at the expense of the much more important and get my priorities out of whack, but I see how I’m growing in choosing what God identifies as more important. He’s transforming my tendency to lean on me (while ignoring my limits) into a woman who sees her limits, humbly accepts them, and freely admits and entrusts them to God so that He can fill the oh-so-wide-gap with His strength. And oh, what many opportunities there are to embrace my weakness and glory in His almighty power!

I can say that I’ve been on both sides of this equation: His way is so much better. And what’s amazing is that each and every time I choose His way, I get to see God move on my behalf in incredible, creative ways; where His Most High might shines through, and I’m left amazed at His ability and just how well He loves me.

I think it’s time my relationship with the tiresome idol called “productivity” is through.

Hey, you, productivity. I see through your tricks. You keep telling me I need you, to be like you, and to do everything I can to reach you. But you can’t have your way with me anymore. It’s over. I’m leaving you and coming back to the One Who deserves all of me, my time, and my attention. He’s the One Who never sleeps, grows tired, or weary like I do. He never makes me feel small for my weaknesses either because He knows me and loves me. He’ll accomplish what concerns me and is happy to give me His strength.

So productivity, you and me? Well, we’re done.

Thank, Jesus.

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